MFG Chemical Inc. of Dalton, Ga., has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for 20 safety violations following a plant explosion that resulted in the hospitalization of approximately 40 employees of other companies who were working in the surrounding area. Proposed penalties total $77,000.

The May explosion was caused by a runaway reaction from an overheated reactor. During the production of coagulant 129, a compound used in water treatment, an increase in temperature caused the reactor to overpressurize, rupturing the dome cover and blowing a hole in the roof of the facility. In response to the incident, OSHA conducted an inspection under the agency's national emphasis program on process safety management for covered chemical facilities.

Nineteen serious violations involved exposing workers to fire and explosion hazards while they performed manufacturing duties, as well as failing to ensure that initial process hazard analyses were conducted. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. The citations carry $76,300 in penalties.

One other-than-serious violation was related to failing to ensure that a material safety data worksheet contained the required information. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm. The citation carries a $700 penalty.

"This inspection has identified a wide range of safety hazards that need to be addressed in order to protect workers," said Andre Richards, director of OSHA's Atlanta-West area office. "It is the employer's responsibility to provide a safe and healthful workplace."

MFG Chemical manufactures a range of specialty chemicals for the water treatment, agriculture, pulp and paper industries. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.